Quick off the mark, The Holcim cement plant in Ellis County, Fort Worth has applied for a state grant to install experimental pollution control equipment and determine whether it helps reduce ozone-forming emissions that affect the region. The company announced Tuesday that it’s asking for US$2m to install the equipment. Once installed, the company would pay to maintain and operate the equipment, which would cost as much as US$2m a year, officials say. If approved, and if the pollution controls work, Holcim officials say they will keep the equipment in place permanently.
The request comes only hours after the local Star-Telegram reported that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is developing a plan to use unspecified economic development funds and/or state grant money to install pollution controls at the county’s cement kilns.
"Holcim’s view is if there’s a proven technology out there, or ways to reduce emissions, we’re willing to participate and incorporate the emissions reductions in our plant process," said Keith Depew, the local plant manager. "The company believes in being proactive." Neither the Commission on Environmental Quality, nor company officials, could say whether the Holcim grant application is part of the commission’s plan.
The proposed pollution controls at Holcim target nitrogen oxides, the chief man-made component of ozone. Cement plants emit more than half of all nitrogen oxides in Ellis County, according to federal records. The technology Holcim wants to test is called selective noncatalytic reduction. It works by capturing emissions before they’re discharged and injecting them with ammonia, which alters the pollution into harmless nitrogen and water vapor.
It is not in use at any cement plant in the country, officials said. But if the application is approved, Depew said, the new technology could be installed this year. Plant officials also say that they studied the technology before and concluded that it is not viable. However, they say that they have remained open to exploring the technology and that the plant would become a national model for dealing with cement plant pollution. But the state must first approve the grant request, and Holcim’s proposal faces stiff competition as the the program has only $8.3m available, and the state has received 74 project applications totaling US$60m, said Andy Saenz, a Texas Commission on Environmental Quality spokesman.